ALPHARETTA, Ga. (BP) -- "We are proud of you. You are heroes to Southern Baptists."
Religious freedom issues are on the rise in light of changes in military policy and key court rulings.
Kevin Ezell, president of the North American Mission Board, spoke those words to about 55 Southern Baptist senior military chaplains from across the armed services during a conference call that included Russell D. Moore, president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, and Doug Carver, the retired Army major general who leads NAMB's chaplaincy efforts.
"We wanted to hear from them about the challenges they are facing in their ministry and ways we can better help and support them in the important work they are doing," Ezell said after the session on Thursday, Aug. 8.
Recent months have brought challenges on many fronts as chaplains face navigating their ministry in light of the military's repeal of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell," the U.S. Supreme Court's abolishment of the Defense of Marriage Act and other religious freedom issues facing chaplains and members of the military.
The decisions and changes mean chaplains might be asked to perform marriages for same-sex couples as well as counseling, marriage retreats and funerals. There are also concerns about whether military chaplains will be able to quote certain Scripture passages without facing disciplinary action for offending homosexuals.
"Those of you serving in the military are at the front wave of what we are eventually going to be facing all over this country," Moore told the chaplains. "You are going to be dealing with some things that every community in the United States will be dealing with in a few short years."
The NAMB chaplaincy team that Carver leads regularly communicates with the 1,434 Southern Baptist chaplains who serve the U.S. military around the globe.
"For the last few months we have dealt with numerous issues regarding religious liberty," Carver said. "To date and to the best of my knowledge in all three components of the services, we have had no chaplains who have left as a result of the repeal of Don't Ask, Don't Tell or the Defense of Marriage Act and we have none who have been charged or punished as a result of their beliefs." Read More